Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Blue Carbon & World Bank Oceans Partnership

Blue Carbon included in the discussions - (World Bank President Robert Zoellick) "pointed to the value in preserving carbon-rich mangrove forests and sea grassbeds and the possibility of earning carbon offsets for projects that conserve these areas.

"Putting a value on the carbon stored in mangroves and sea grass beds can also lead to better protection."

World Bank issues SOS for oceans

Millions of jobs at risk from over-fishing and pollution

Published Friday, February 24, 2012

The World Bank announced on Friday a global alliance to better manage and protect the world's oceans, which are under threat from over-fishing, pollution and climate change.

Oceans are the lifeblood of the planet and the global economy, World Bank President Robert Zoellick told a conference on ocean conservation in Singapore. Yet the seas have become overexploited, coastlines badly degraded and reefs under threat from pollution and rising temperatures.

"We need a new SOS: Save Our Seas," Zoellick said in announcing the alliance.

The partnership would bring together countries, scientific centres, non-governmental groups, international organisations, foundations and the private sector, he said.

The World Bank could help guide the effort by bringing together existing global ocean conservation programmes and support efforts to mobilise finance and develop market-mechanisms to place a value on the benefits that oceans provide.

Millions of people rely on oceans for jobs and food and that dependence will grow as the world's population heads for 9 billion people, underscoring the need to better manage the seas.

Zoellick said the alliance was initially committed to mobilising at least $300 million in finance.

"Working with governments, the scientific community, civil society organizations, and the private sector, we aim to leverage as much as $1.2 billion to support healthy and sustainable oceans."


A key focus was understanding the full value of the oceans' wealth and ecosystem services. Oceans are the top source of oxygen, help regulate the climate, while mangroves, reefs and wetlands are critical to protecting increasingly populous coastal areas against hazards such as storms -- benefits that are largely taken for granted.

"Whatever the resource, it is impossible to evolve a plan to manage and grow the resource without knowing its value," he said.

Another aim was to rebuild at least half the world's fish stocks identified as depleted. About 85 percent of ocean fisheries are fully exploited, over-exploited or depleted.

"We should increase the annual net benefits of fisheries to between $20 billion and $30 billion. We estimate that global fisheries currently run a net economic loss of about $5 billion per year," he said.

Participants at the conference spoke of the long-term dividends from ocean conservation and better management of its resources. But that needed economists, bankers and board rooms to place a value on the oceans' "natural capital".

"The key to the success of this partnership will be new market mechanisms that value natural capital and can attract private finance," Abyd Karmali, global head of carbon markets at Bank of America Merrill Lynch, told Reuters.

He pointed to the value in preserving carbon-rich mangrove forests and sea grassbeds and the possibility of earning carbon offsets for projects that conserve these areas.

"The oceans' stock is in trouble. We have diminished its asset value to a huge degree and poor asset management is poor economics," Stephen Palumbi, director of the Hopkins Marine Station, Stanford University, told the conference.


Why oceans are key to the global economy

Oceans carry the bulk of the world's trade, are a major source of food and employment and help regulate the planet's climate but they are under threat from pollution, over-fishing and global warming.

Governments and businesses are increasingly aware of the value of oceans but are struggling to address the many threats that imperil seas around the globe. The World Bank is steering a new global alliance on the issue.

Following are some facts about the world's oceans, the threats they face and some emerging solutions.


Oceans are Earth's most valuable asset, the World Economic Forum (WEF) says and their "natural capital" is huge, contributing $70 trillion to global gross domestic product (GDP) annually.

The value of ecosystem services oceans provide is $38 trillion annually, the WEF says.

For example, 80 percent of our oxygen comes from oceans, while the seas act as huge stores of heat and carbon, essential for regulating the climate. Seafood, reefs and tourism are major sources of jobs and wealth, while mangroves, reefs and deltas help protect coastlines.

Oceans support 90 percent of global trade volume and 40 percent of global trade value, the WEF says. More than 3.2 billion people live within 100 km (60 miles) of the sea.

Fisheries are a major source of food, providing more than 1.5 billion people with almost 20 percent of their average per-capita intake of animal protein, the UN's Food and Agriculture Organisation says.

The value of fish caught in seas and inland waterways totalled $94 billion in 2008, the FAO says. The rapidly growing aquaculture sector, such as fish and shrimp farms, added a further $98.4 billion.

In 2008, an estimated 45 million people were directly engaged, full time or, more frequently, part time, in fisheries or in aquaculture. That's twice the population of Australia.

One of every six jobs in the United States is marine-related and more than a third of US gross national product originates in coastal areas.


About 95 percent of the vast underwater world of all oceans is unexplored, the World Economic Forum says. Yet all of it is under threat, it says.

The United Nations Environment Program's Global Environment Outlook says three-quarters of marine fisheries are exploited up to, or beyond, their maximum capacity.

The UN's most recent "State of the World's Fisheries and Aquaculture" report says 85 percent of fish stocks are fully exploited or worse.

Oceans support nearly 50 percent of all species on Earth. Many species are endangered, and some coral reefs are dying or damaged because of a combination of pollution, rising water temperatures and increasing ocean acidity as the planet heats up and the sea soaks up extra carbon dioxide from power stations, industry and cars.

Pollution from the oil and gas sector is another threat.

Masses of garbage are littered across the ocean floor or trapped in huge gyres, or rotating ocean currents, in the Pacific and elsewhere.

Large areas of protective mangroves have been also lost.


There are many and include:

Curbing the growth of carbon dioxide emissions and limiting the pace of ocean acidification. Protecting natural barriers such as coral reefs or mangroves can be a cost-effective way to reduce damage from storms.

Putting a value on the carbon stored in mangroves and sea grass beds can also lead to better protection. Boosting the network of marine protected areas, including no-take reserves, is another.

At a major UN meeting in Nagoya, Japan, in 2010, governments agreed to a target of protecting 10 percent of the world's oceans by 2020. Such levels of protection apply to less than 2 percent now, the World Bank says.

The United Nations says many of the benefits from nature are still taken for granted, often because there is no value assigned to them. Rethinking how businesses value nature and incorporate those values into balance sheets will refocus decision-making in board rooms towards less destructive practices, the world body says.

Monday, February 27, 2012

The blue carbon strategy

The blue carbon strategy

23 January 2012 / by Mico Tatalovic / Cosmos Online

Mangrove forests, seagrass beds and salt marshes possess a huge carbon storage capacity, which scientists say can be used to mitigate climate change. Known as blue carbon, this resource could one day be quantified and sold on international carbon trading markets.

Together with seagrass beds and salt marshes, mangrove forests such as the one pictured account for 70% of the ocean's carbon storage capacity.

Mangrove forests, seagrass beds and salt marshes cover only around 0.5% of the seabed, but account for some 70% of the ocean's carbon storage capacity.

These three marine environments soak up and store carbon dioxide in their biomass and sediments, where they keep it locked up for centuries. Together with the carbon held in the rest of the ocean, this is known as 'blue carbon'.

Blue carbon is also the name of a new strategic approach to make use of the large carbon capture and storage potential of coastal ecosystems. If this carbon could be quantified and sold on international carbon trading markets, this could help fund preservation and restoration projects, which would also help capture more carbon and ease the effects of climate change.

Apart from sequestering carbon quicker than the same area of rainforests can, these three ecosystems provide other 'eco-services' which are especially valuable for vulnerable coastal communities in developing countries. These include food and energy, protecting shorelines from flood and tsunamis, filtering water, as well as recreation and tourism.

But aquaculture, agricultural development and pollution are now responsible for loss of these ecosystems at a rate of up to four times that of rainforest loss. Around 20% of mangroves and more than 50% of seagrass ecosystems have been lost in the last 25 years, and salt marshes are being lost at a rate 1 to 2% per year.

Because of the huge amount of carbon stored in mangroves, the global emissions from mangrove deforestation account for around 10% of all emissions from deforestation, despite making up just 0.7% of tropical forest area.

"Some of the coastal ecosystems are 50 or even up to 75 times more efficient than a same type of area of land in terms of sequestering carbon, and that's a wonderful opportunity for us, but it's one we're squandering," says Carl Gustaf Lundin, director of the Global Marine and Polar Programme at the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) based in Switzerland. "We're doing a lot silly things in the ocean, we're doing land reclamation projects, we're doing very destructive things in the marine environment and if we stop those and actually start restoring, then we'll at least help our carbon footprint."

Last month, a new research initiative was launched at the Eye on Earth summit in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates to understand how the blue carbon strategy would work. This will feed into the negotiations for the U.N. Conference on Sustainable Development Rio+20 in Brazil later this year.

According to the organisations driving it, Conservation International, IUCN and UNESCO, this is the first global initiative to mitigate climate change through the conservation and restoration of coastal marine ecosystems. "Blue carbon is an opportunity or us, first to take into account what we as humans are doing to the environment, [and] an opportunity for us to be able to factor those resources and in turn use this as a platform for solutions," Rolph Payet, special adviser to the president of the Republic of Seychelles, an island country in the Indian Ocean, and president of University of Seychelles, told the summit.

Blue carbon aims to link eco-services, including but not exclusively carbon storage, with market-based payment mechanisms to help mitigate and adapt to climate change, conserve biodiversity, and ensure sustainable delivery of those ecosystem services to people.

But one of the key problems with linking economics of blue carbon trading with marine conservation is a lack of comparable baseline data on blue carbon. This 'data deficiency' is a key barrier to effective planning and decision-making in the coastal and marine environment, according to a white paper prepared for the summit. It also hampers the inclusion of these environments into international conventions and financing mechanisms that exist for land habitats, such as forests through the U.N.'s Programme on Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation in Developing Countries (REDD).

"There's a big gap right now with basic data," says Sylvia Earle, founder and chairman of the National Geographic Society in the U.S. "You can't put a finger on it [the problem] until you know what you've got, but that's no excuse to ignore it, and we had been ignoring it."

Lundin agrees, "We're just getting started in the accounting process, in trying to understand the science behind it and, from then on, trying to find policy options."

There are no internationally accepted methodologies for assessing carbon sequestration by salt marshes, sea grasses and 'below-ground' parts of mangroves. And there is still uncertainty about the exact sequestration rates for the three ecosystems.

"The key is knowing. It's identifying problems. You can't really solve a problem until you know you've got one," Earle says. And according to her, the whole of the ocean is a large part of the environmental data gap problem, which was, together with sharing existing data, the focus of the summit in Abu Dhabi.

And the problem is especially acute in developing countries. In his message to the summit, the prime minister of Kiribati, an island nation located in the central tropical Pacific Ocean, H.E. Beretitenti Anote Tong said, "For us in small, developing countries and indeed for most of the Pacific island countries ... environmental information is a scarce commodity. Even where such information does exist, it is often of limited value because of its poor quality."

So, the working group on blue carbon, brought together by the summit, will start developing new scientific methodologies and start filling the data gaps. This will include a US$4.5 million Global Environment Facility (GEF)-funded research project due to start late this year, and new Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) guidelines on greenhouse gas inventories, to be launched in 2013, that would include blue carbon.

It will also help bring together existing initiatives and pilot projects currently taking place in the Asia Pacific region, West Africa and Arabian Peninsula. One goal is to develop an interactive global map of blue carbon projects to build a network of practitioners and experts and to gather the lessons learned.

Another is to use citizen science to help map habitats and later provide data openly online. "We need more practical examples, we need to link science and knowledge with the practical application," says Lundin.

The blue carbon initiative, which has its origins in two reports published in 2009, already claims a success in getting the issue into the public domain and raising awareness of the importance of blue carbon. If all goes well, in the next three to five years they hope to have examples of new data being used in practical decision-making, demonstrate the value of coastal systems to carbon markets, identify a global set of priority areas for conservation, and develop a policy framework easing payment for ecosystem services.

And while for many in the West, blue carbon may be an opportunity to offset their carbon emissions, for small island states in the Pacific and Caribbean it may be a matter of survival. "Our ocean is the source of our livelihood," Tong said. "For us, sustainable management of our ocean is matter of survival for our Pacific peoples."

Friday, February 24, 2012

Seagrass Restoration in Virginia - Restoring Carbon Sequestration

Seagrass Restoration in Virginia's Coastal Bays Proving Successful, Studies Show

Released: 2/23/2012 5:00 PM EST, Source: University of Virginia

Newswise — A seagrass restoration project in the coastal bays of Virginia's Eastern Shore is demonstrating remarkable success, according to researchers at the University of Virginia and the Virginia Institute of Marine Science.

In a series of papers published Feb. 23 in the journal Marine Ecology Progress Series, the researchers report that after 10 years of seeding vast and once barren stretches of bay bottom and monitoring the growth of eelgrass from these plantings, 17 square kilometers (about 10.5 square miles) are now carpeted with lush, healthy seagrass meadows.

"We've found what we hoped to find: that the eelgrass is flourishing and spreading out, and creating beneficial conditions for the overall health of these bays," said Karen McGlathery, an environmental scientist in the College of Arts & Sciences. who leads the U.Va. effort and authored or co-authored several of the papers that appear in the journal.

McGlathery said ongoing studies are showing that the grasses are increasing water clarity in the bays, stabilizing the seafloor and capturing, or "sequestering" carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and nitrogen from the water, which thereby reduces potential occurrences of harmful algae blooms.

The new meadows also are providing new habitat for a variety of marine species, including fish, crabs, mollusks and scallops.

Eelgrass is a submerged marine grass that once flourished in Virginia's seaside bays, but began dying off in the late 1920s and early 1930s due to a pathogen. In 1933, a hurricane completely wiped out the extensive grass beds. In the years following, bay bottoms became muddy and barren, ending a once-thriving scalloping and fishing industry. The seagrass did not recover because there was no source of seeds nearby.

In 2001, researchers at the Virginia Institute of Marine Science (a component of the College of William & Mary), led by marine scientist Robert Orth, began seeding some of those barren areas in an attempt to return eelgrass to the region. U.Va. scientists joined the effort, conducting research on the conditions that are most conducive to seagrass growth, evaluating the success of the growth and monitoring the changes to water quality, habitat and marine life.

"This restoration has given us a great opportunity to track the importance of seagrass as a foundation species on which other species depend," McGlathery said, "and we've been able to compare the seagrass beds we've seeded with areas of the bay where there is no grass."

Without the grasses, she said, sediment from the sea bottom is continually stirred up by wind and current and storms, reducing water clarity and limiting the growth of any existing small patches of seagrass and the marine life they support. When seagrass becomes established, it initiates a positive feedback on its own growth conditions and meadows continue to spread.

"We're following the trajectory of growth over time – how long it takes the seagrass meadows to provide habitat and what we call 'ecosystem services,' such as improving water quality and storing carbon. We've seen an exponential increase in the size of the meadows and a marked improvement in the benefits they provide to the ecosystem of the coastal bays."

The researchers also are developing computer models based on field data to determine possible vulnerabilities the grass meadows might face as sea levels rise and waters warm, or if development and commercial farming increases on the Eastern Shore, as anticipated.

"We've looked at this from a number of different angles – everything from the genetics of the restored populations to the implications for vulnerability in possible future climate change scenarios," McGlathery said.

She noted that VIMS researchers are using eelgrass seeds from different regions to create a genetic mix that allows for hardier and more resilient grasses in the face of environmental stresses, such as climate change.

"We're changing the environment of these bays back to what it was when it was a very healthy thriving system 80 years ago, so it's an exciting change," McGlathery said.

"We're also now trying to understand how much more growth could occur. Our projections show the potential for vast stretches of bay bottoms to eventually become carpeted with seagrass."

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Shrimp farming/ negative impacts on climate change

Scientists have found that mangrove destruction as a result of shrimp farming have major impacts on carbon sequestration in these habitats.  

The Carbon Footprint of a Shrimp Cocktail

17 February 2012/ by Erik Stokstad/ Science AAAS 

In many parts of Latin America and Asia, large swaths of coastal mangrove forests have been cut down and turned into shrimp farms. Not only does this deforestation destroy habitat for birds and cause other ecological problems, but it also releases a large amount of the carbon stored in mangrove soil—so much, in fact, that the shrimp end up having a sizable carbon footprint, according to calculations presented here today at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (which publishes ScienceNOW).

To get a handle on how much carbon dioxide is represented by shrimp, ecologist Boone Kauffman of Oregon State University in Corvallis made some estimates based on typical shrimp farms in southeast Asia. He looked at farms that are relatively large and not particularly productive, with harvests yielding 50 to 500 kilograms of shrimp per hectare. These farms, which make up about half of those in the world, only last for 5 years or so before the buildup of sludge in the ponds and the acid sulfate soil renders them unfit for shrimp. “It's the equivalent of slash-and-burn agriculture,” Kauffman said. (Other types of shrimp farms are more efficient and not located in mangrove forests.)

Drawing on other studies, Kauffman estimated that 401 metric tons of carbon are emitted to the atmosphere when a hectare of mangrove is converted to a shrimp farm, which is equivalent to 1472 tons of carbon dioxide. Over the average 5-year life span of a farm, a farmer will typically harvest about 1659 kilograms of shrimp. So a 100-gram shrimp cocktail represents an “astonishing” 198 kilograms of carbon dioxide from the loss of the mangrove, Kauffman said, the equivalent of burning 90 liters of gasoline. The carbon intensity of shrimp from deforested mangroves is 10 times greater than that of beef grown in deforested Amazonian rain forest, according to other unpublished calculations Kauffman has made. The calculations don't include the energy involved in feeding, processing, and transporting the shrimp.

“The shrimp cocktail is a good example of how carbon cost associated with mangrove degradation way outweighs the actual product that is produced,” Emily Pidgeon of Conservation International told the audience at a session entitled “Blue Carbon, Green Opportunities: Innovative Solutions To Protect Coastal Ecosystems.” So, how much would it cost to prevent mangroves from being turned into shrimp farms? Based on his calculations, Kauffman says that compensating farmers for not growing shrimp would mean that each ton of carbon kept intact in mangrove soil would cost about $4.50. “That's well within the range of carbon markets,” Kauffman said.

At the moment, these carbon markets only trade in credits for terrestrial ecosystems; for example, keeping a certain amount of forest intact in order to offset a ton of carbon dioxide emitted by burning fossil fuels. At the session, Carolyn Ching of the VCS Association—a firm that creates accounting standards for carbon credits—described progress in devising the first carbon credit program for mangroves and other wetlands, which could provide funds for their conservation and restoration. Ching suggested the system could be finalized and running as early as September: “We see carbon finance as one of the potential mechanisms for addressing wetlands conservation.”


A rebuttal from Global Aquaculture Alliance (GAA) -

Carbon Footprint for Farmed Shrimp Disputed ( / March 09, 2012)

Mr. Chamberlain from GAA argues that "while the Global Aquaculture Alliance supports Mr Kauffman's valuation of mangroves as important ecological carbon sinks that should be conserved, we take issue with his calculations about shrimp farming" arguing that the life span of shrimp farms are usually longer than what is suggested by Kauffman, moreover, that over time shrimp farms become less problematic as acid gradually neutralizes.

Also -

Dated, Erroneous Assumptions Yield Misleading 'Carbon Footprint' For Farmed Shrimp ( / March 13, 2012)

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Mangroves- An Ecosystem In Peril

Mangroves: A Non-Edible Biofuel In Peril – OpEd

3 February 2012/ by Naseem Sheikh/ Eurasia Review
The escalating and inelastic demand for energy to fuel economic activities exerts pressures on its limited supply. The skyrocketing prices of petroleum products results in the depletion of non-renewable energy sources and the continued investigation and use of renewable and innovation results. Research shows that energy demand is expected to increase three fold by 2050.

The concept of using human food to create ethanol is on full bloom, but environmentalists have warned that the bio fuel craze can do as much or more damage to the environment as dirty fossil fuels, citing the Amazon Rainforest is being destroyed every year to produce bio-fuel crops. So now we see the consequences in Africa. A market has been created by British and EU laws requiring the blending of rising amounts of bio fuels into petrol and diesel.

Upon this backdrop, Mangrove forests can appear as light beam in such a darkening situation because they have the hidden blessing for production of bio fuel. We must search other sources rather than food material, so forget corn, soy, sugar cane, palm and even jatropha.

Halophytes can be productive sources of biomass energy. For example, Salicornia seed is 32% oil by mass. Halophytes flourish in arid land and can be irrigated with seawater, making them suitable for bio fuel development. Dominating many coastlines in tropical and subtropical areas, mangroves are a bridge between terrestrial and marine environments. They are also extremely productive ecosystems.

The most extensive area of mangroves is found in Asia, followed by Africa and South America. According to the FAO, the total mangrove area is around 150,000 km2. Four countries (Indonesia, Brazil, Nigeria, and Australia) account for about 41% percent of all mangroves. Pakistan’s coastline covers about 700 kilometres of Sindh and Balochistan provinces (almost only 8% of total forestry).

Salicornia is a juicy plant used as bio fuel has a higher recovery and quality of oil than other crops, the plant has no direct competition with food crops. There are experimental fields of Salicornia in Ras al-Zawr (Saudi Arabia), Eritrea (Northeast Africa) and Sonora (Northwest Mexico) aimed at the production of biodiesel. The company responsible for the Sonora trials (Global Seawater) claims that between 225 and 250 gallons of BQ-9000 biodiesel can be produced per hectare (approximately 2.5 acres) of salicornia and is promoting a $35 million scheme to create a 12,000-acre (49 km2) salicornia farm in Bahia de Kino.

Robert Glenn, a plant biologist at University of Arizona, deserves credit for demonstrating the use of Salicornia as bio fuels. Later, Jelte Rozema and Timothy Flowers, scientists at NASA, said that Glenn’s work is of high significance. Glenn has claimed that Salicornia could be grown on 480,000 square miles of unused land across the globe. Saudi Arabia, Eritrea and Mexico are already running trials to examine Salicornia’s potential as bio fuels.

Scientists at NASA Glenn Research Center in Cleveland have been trying to fill the skies with algae and explore new means to create alternative energy source for commercial aviation. It seems like Bilal Bomani, a scientist at NASA Glenn Research Center, Cleveland, has tied the future of space exploration to sub-aquatic life. He is also using salicornia for his experimental work.

Salicornia is also an eco-friendly plantation as it absorbs carbon dioxide. It is for these qualities that salicornia is often referred to as ‘miracle plant’. It is indeed producing miracles in some parts of the world and being rapidly adopted by countries with vast coastlines and saline water.

Nevertheless, caution must be used.

Mangrove forests are one of the world’s most threatened tropical ecosystems. Mangrove forests require stable sea levels for long-term survival. They are therefore extremely sensitive to current rising sea levels caused by global warming and climate change. More than 35% of the world’s mangroves are already gone. The figure is as high as 50% in countries such as India, the Philippines, and Vietnam, while in the Americas they are being cleared at a rate faster than tropical rainforests.

Freshwater diversions can also lead to mangroves drying out, if salinity becomes too high, the mangroves cannot survive.

Oil pollution can smother mangrove roots and suffocate the trees. These communities also collect medicinal plants from mangrove ecosystems and use mangrove leaves as animal fodder. Recently, the forests have also been commercially harvested for pulp, wood chip, and charcoal production.

We must continue to evolve bio fuels to incorporate feed stocks that are not only sustainable, but actually regenerative and can restore the ecosystems where they are found. Mangrove is a source of timber, fuel, railroad ties and tannin in the tropics. Having a short crop rotation period makes red mangroves a popular choice for posts and poles in managed forests in Malaysia. In Asia, commercial mangrove production is necessary for the construction of boats, houses and furniture.

Productive steps must be taken in increase the population and protective function of mangroves, but also provide sustainable and value-added livelihoods to the poor coastal population. Many efforts are being done to establish mangrove plantations along the entire coast for rehabilitation purposes, 19,000 ha of Avicennia marina and Rhizophora mucronata have been rehabilated in Sindh and Balochistan in the 1990 within a collaboration between the Sindh Government and IUCN and around 17,000 ha have been restored in the Indus delta with support of the World Bank in 1999.

Senior Advisor on coastal ecosystems with the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN), Tahir Qureshi, has extended help in rehabilitating 30,000 hectares of mangroves along the southern coast on the Arabian Sea, including in Baluchistan. Some mangrove areas have been converted to cultivated land prior to 1995. After losses in mangrove extent that may have occurred have been balanced by the natural regeneration and reforestation efforts, consequently no major changes appear to have occurred over the last ten years.

In other developing countries mangroves are being exploited and shipped for pulp and particleboard. The renewed mangroves would serve as a carbon sink and source of bio ethanol fuel to reduce carbon dioxide emission and generate good income to alleviate poverty and mitigate climate change. More than 500,000 individuals would benefit, including many in the transport sector. They would not only help revolutionize poverty but also serve as raw material for some industries and exports.

Although aquatic plants may have less commercial potential than do terrestrial plants, future advances in technology may open promising doors for the economic use of harvested aquatic weeds in Pakistan and elsewhere.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Scientists working on plan to fight global warming

Louisiana scientists working on plan to save coastline, fight global warming

28 January 2012/ by Mark Schleifstein/ The Times- Picayune

A team of Louisiana scientists is laying the groundwork for creating a new carbon storage industry that could both reduce the effects of global warming and rebuild wetlands along the state’s coastline. Sarah Mack, founder of New Orleans-based Tierra Resources, and Louisiana State University wetlands scientists John W. Day and Robert Lane have come up with a method for measuring the molecules of carbon removed from the atmosphere by the soils and plants that are created with coastal restoration projects.

Removing carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases from the atmosphere is a key strategy for mitigating global warming, and thus reducing the effects of climate change. Scientists say rising levels of human-made carbon dioxide help the atmosphere hold in heat, leading to warmer worldwide temperatures. Those temperatures, scientists say, will result in a variety of harmful effects, from rising sea levels to longer periods of drought and more intense storms.

Assuring that restoration projects can store carbon for years could turn the projects into major investment targets for carbon-producing industries nationwide, including electric power generating companies and petrochemical plants that are facing potential federal and state rules aimed at reducing carbon emissions.

During a Thursday news conference, Mack compared carbon reduction to losing weight.

“You either eat less or you exercise,” she said.

But scientists don’t have it easy, she said. Restoration projects don’t create big chunks of coal that are easy to count. Instead, they have to measure the amount of carbon absorbed as plants grow, and then how much remains in wetland soils after the plants die and decompose.

The process must also take into account whether the effects of global warming, including sea level rise, might in the future upset the process, with the wetlands sinking below the water and freeing the carbon to again enter the atmosphere.

The American Carbon Registry, created to certify carbon credits, is now reviewing the Tierra Resources method to assure it meets such standards.

Industries such as New Orleans-based Entergy Corp. have been investing in carbon-reduction projects for almost a decade, “banking” the credits in anticipation of federal regulations aimed at reducing industrial carbon emissions to 1990 levels.

Entergy, which operates electric utilities in Louisiana, Texas, Arkansas and Mississippi and owns electrical plants in several other states, is paying for development of the Tierra Resources wetlands carbon offset methodology, in part because of the threat to the company’s future by climate change, a company official said. A 2010 study co-sponsored by Entergy and America’s Energy Coast found that the effects of climate change could result in an annual economic loss to the Gulf coast of $350 billion.

“Our service territory is in the unique position of being at risk of the effects of climate change, including the loss of parts of our service territory, our customers and our assets,” said Entergy executive Steve Tullos.

Development of privately financed carbon sequestration projects also is being promoted by the state as part of its $50 billion, 50-year coastal restoration and protection master plan.

The Environmental Protection Agency agreed in 2010 to regulate greenhouse gas emissions from fossil fuel-fired power plants and petroleum refineries, which together make up about 40 percent of the nation’s emissions. It’s unclear when those regulations will be completed or enforced, but the voluntary market continues to expand.

And California, which would rank on its own as the 12th-largest producer of greenhouse gases in the world, is about to launch its own carbon reduction program by the end of next year that’s aimed at cutting greenhouse emissions to 1990 levels by 2020, or about 25 percent below today’s levels.

Assuring that the carbon credits are valid has remained a concern, though, both for the industries paying for projects to establish the carbon reductions, and for the voluntary associations and governments enforcing the reductions.

The Chicago Climate Exchange, established in 2003 to create a financial market for carbon trading, updated its rules last year to require the carbon offset credits be certified under approved science-based protocols.

Mangrove Forest Issues in Tanzania's Rufiji Delta

Government officials in Tanzania are concerned about the intrusion and increasing demand for fresh plots as local farmers are driven to new areas as increasing levels of salt water is pushed inland. They claim that the random forest clearing carried out by some farmers is harming the conservation of local biodiversity.

Salty soils drive Tanzanian farmers into forest reserve

31 Jan 2012/ Kizito Makoye/ Alertnet

Jumanne Kikumbi, a Rufiji delta village chairman, says farmers have lived in the region's mangrove forests for decades. ALERTNET/Kizito Makoye

RUFIJI, Tanzania (AlertNet) - Thousands of farmers in Tanzania’s Rufiji Delta have been accused of destroying mangroves as they search for new land to grow their rice crops, which are being damaged by salt-water intrusion.

The salt water, pushed inland by surging tides from the Indian Ocean, is damaging fields of rice seedlings. Farmers in several villages in the river basin, which sprawls across the east African nation’s southern half, have seen yields fall as a result.

With thousands of hectares affected by saline intrusion, it is becoming harder for the inhabitants of Salale ward to earn a living from rice cultivation, which has been the mainstay of the local economy.

“It is the poor who suffer,” said Henri Laswai, an agricultural expert at Sokoine University in Morogogo. He attributed the problem to worsening climate change impacts.

Scientists have linked the growing problem of saltwater intrusion at least partially with climate change, as sea levels rise. Higher seas inundate wetlands and other low-lying lands, intensify flooding, and increase the salinity of rivers and groundwater tables, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

In the Rufiji Delta, farmers have been moving away from the increasingly salty rivers, where most paddy fields are located, further out into the delta in search of fresh water and better land. But some are encroaching on protected mangrove swamps in their search for new, fertile fields.

The scramble for land has created conflict between Rufiji residents and government authorities who want to stop local people invading protected sites.

Saline intrusion has forced farmers in Nyamisati village in Salale ward, around 250 km from Dar es Salaam, to move to areas such as Bunga and Mchinga where the soil is still very fertile.


“We have experienced one of the lowest crop yields in our history this year. Imagine - one hectare hardly gives you 20 bags of rice these days, whereas we used to get up to 30 bags of rice before,” said 76-year-old Swaleh Jongo, a farmer in Nyamisati. “This is caused by non other than salt water, which is harming our crops.”

The situation has forced farmers to clear some mangrove trees in the delta to find uncontaminated land where they can plant rice seedlings, according to Jongo.

“If we don’t do this, how do you think we are going to feed our families?” he asked.

Most households in Salale that have relocated their fields have to travel long distances to the new paddy fields they have carved out of the mangrove forest. As a result, they often build temporary accommodation in which they stay during the main farming season.

Government officials are concerned about the intrusion and increasing demand for fresh plots, saying that random forest clearing by farmers is harming the conservation of local biodiversity. Such clearing also contributes to climate-changing carbon emissions, releasing carbon stored in forests.

In the past two to three decades, over 5,000 hectares of Rufiji mangrove forest have been lost to rice cultivation, according to a recent remote-sensing study conducted by environmental group World Wildlife Fund (WWF) in collaboration with Sokoine University.

“We are trying to educate Rufiji dwellers on the need to protect the forest around them - that is why we encourage them to replant mangrove trees in their paddy fields,” said Zacharia Kitale of the donor-funded Mangrove Management Project (MMP), run by the Ministry of Tourism and Natural Resources.


Last October, the MMP conducted a five-day eviction exercise in a bid to protect the mangrove forests from further destruction due to increasing human activity.

The decision to remove paddy farmers from protected land in the mangrove forests caused an uproar. Villagers whose temporary huts were set ablaze argued that they and their ancestors had used and at times lived in the forest for generations.

The row has cast questions over plans to support community management of the region’s mangrove forests under the U.N.-backed Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation (REDD+) scheme, which would link forest protection efforts with global carbon markets.

In November, WWF’s marine and climate change advisor, Jason Rubens, told Tanzania’s Business Standard newspaper that the land controversy could hamper such work in the Rufiji Delta as communities might suspect that any mangrove management initiative is part of a strategy to evict them from the delta.

Many farmers seem oblivious of the 2002 Forest Act that prohibits human activities in protected forests, including Rufiji, parts of which form an internationally recognised reserve. But other farmers say they follow the restrictions and are not contravening the rules.

Saidi Ali, who has a 10-hectare (25 acre) farm in the delta, defends the decision by local people to cultivate rice in unprotected forest zones.

“We respect the government,” he said. “That is why no one has dared to touch those areas we traditionally know are protected forests, like Kikale and Msindaji. But (that does not include) the whole of Rufiji.”

Changing weather patterns – including reduced rainfall in higher altitude zones - are also shrinking the area of the delta land suitable for cultivation, according to Ali. Paje, Ngazini and other higher-altitude locations, he said, had been traditional rice-growing places for centuries until recent decades.

“These days nobody goes there because when you plant rice, seedlings die from shortage of water and poor soils,” he said.


The situation is likely to get worse. Officials from the state-run Rufiji Basin Development Authority (RUBADA) expect salt-water intrusion to damage more land in the valley.

“We have done many studies, and they have proved that this problem will certainly spread, threatening our food security,” explained its chief executive Aloyce Masanja.

More than 90 percent of households in the Rufiji Delta and its floodplain - which have a combined population of more than 150,000 - make their living from rice farming.

They supplement their income with fishing and extraction of wetland products, such as weeds for making baskets. But in the past decade, population growth and unsustainable resource use, including cutting down trees for fuel wood and charcoal, is putting these activities at risk too.

Villagers fear their dwindling rice yields, coupled with government disruption of their forest farming activities, will force many to depend on food handouts this season.

“We invested massively in rice, but because of salt water, our fields are turning red,” said Jummanne Mwalekwa, a farmer in Nyamisati. “We can barely see the salt content in the soil, yet there is nothing we can do but to vacate the fields... Now the government says we have invaded its forests. Where can we go?”

Since the furore over the evictions, the government has eased its law enforcement efforts - at least for the time being - and is allowing farmers in the mangrove forests to continue their activities while it collects more data on their environmental impact.

MMP director Zawadi Mbwambo is hopeful that preliminary studies for forest protection projects will continue after the dispute is sorted out - especially given that the Norwegian government has already injected around $5 million to support local efforts to tackle climate change.

Kizito Makoye is a journalist based in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. This story is part of a series supported by the Climate and Development Knowledge Network.